It would be nice to be a wine expert in 24 hours, but even with this excellent book, I’m not likely to achieve it. You’d need a cavernous memory with millions of cupboards and files and to be honest, sometimes I can’t remember my own postcode.
But, I think Jancis Robinson is really just having a bit of fun with the title, and if you’re not very up on wine, this is the book for you. I like to think I understand what lager is trying to say to me, but I’d really like to know wine, and very early on in this book, I was amazed at what I was picking up. If you’re a beginner, you will find out stuff within pages that you’ll be really glad to know. Like how long to really keep wine, for one. For those of us who are a bit Caroline Quentin in Jonathan Creek, it’s useful stuff.
It’s a very short book, and small format paperback, and is perfect-sized for the back pocket of your jeans down the Bargain Booze. It has only just over 100 pages, but the know-how is piled high. I like her writing, which is straightforward, totally unpompous and aimed at real human beings – even if her standard wine glass recommendation was slightly tougher on the pocket than hoped when I checked them on Amazon!
The book has a no nonsense spirit that means a great deal of what you don’t need to know – no matter how interesting it might be – is trimmed away with the clear intent of giving the reader the very basic, clearest ground to navigate. There’s always another day for a big book with lots of pictures, maps and essays – not least Robinson’s own The Oxford Companion to Wine which looks fairly giant and amazing. Meantime though, this is definitely the primer.
I love wine. It has been an acquired taste over some years, but now I’m completely converted. Which is amazing really, considering the tap water and vinegar I have been regularly consuming. I suspect that part of Jancis Robinson’s mission is to wean us off £3.99 Ferengi table wine, and guide us to better choices, rather than create a giant robot army of wine buffs. She does this in part by making strong suggestions and sharing really useful tips for making these choices, but is also quick to flag up the tricks of the trade designed to flog us bargains and specials which are maybe not what they appear at first look.
This is an excellent little book, you can get it at a real giveaway price, like paperbacks in days of old, and if you’re a keen starter in the world of wine, it’s really, really superb. For the Charles Ryders in the Brideshead cellar, it gives us all something to say.